Holiday huts a throwback to the old days

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In between the showers on Sunday morning, I managed to nip round my three local lochs to count the wildfowl as part of the national monthly bird count.

There was a good variety of water birds around and it was good to see plenty of winter visiting whooper swans this year – a trend which seems to be repeating all over the country.

In the afternoon, the weather cleared up enough for a trip to Peebles and a walk up the lovely Soonhope Burn, which flows just past the Hydro.

After leaving the grandeur of one of the Borders’ nicest hotels, it can be a shock to the system to come across the shanty village of holiday huts straddling the burn for the first section of the walk.

Being a former “hutter” myself, I love wandering past these home-made cabins and marvelling at the ingenuity and inventiveness of the owners’ summer retreats. Many will be from city streets where every house is the same and any form of eccentricity is frowned upon. Here their imagination – and in some cases lack of any semblance of taste – is allowed to run amok. I saw gnomes, plastic flowers, sea shells and even a scaled-down version of the clock in Paddington Station dated 1854 – but best of all were some of the signs. One metal embossed shield on a gate read: “In 1832 on this spot – nothing happened”. Another which was aimed at careless visitors declared: “Be ye man or be ye wummin, Be ye gaun or be ye cummin’, Be ye early or be ye late, Be ye share tae shut this gate”.

One particular hut, a converted railway carriage, had a great name: The Soon-up Sleeper. Some though were in a better state of repair than others, but it was obvious in nearly all cases that surplus materials from home were recycled – often incongruously.

Big flashy front doors and sash windows were attached to buildings little more than sheds, and in some cases the roofing materials were too heavy, causing the roofline to sag alarmingly. There was no sign of electric wires, so I presume gas was the method of cooking and wood burning stoves would be used for heating.

With no signs of satellite dishes or TV aerials, holidays spent here would be a throwback to the good old days.